SEL Ambassador Spotlight: Caitlin Riojas from IDEA Pflugerville in Texas

Our partners at IDEA Public Schools are integrating SEL throughout the network, prioritizing social emotional learning for students’ grades PreK-12 as well as educators and families. By adopting a network wide SEL curriculum, IDEA Public Schools are able to track engagement, effort, and impact across their campuses. We recently spoke with teacher Caitlin Riojas from IDEA Pflugerville in Texas to learn more about what SEL looks like in her community, how she integrates community values of integrity and equity, and some of the impact she’s seen in her classroom.

MTW: What does SEL look like in your community?

Caitlin Riojas: SEL work is reflected in all of our core values, and these are the foundation of our school, not only in our school culture, but in our academics as well. We see the social-emotional as embedded in all that we do. 


MTW: How did you know your community needed the support of an SEL program? 

Caitlin Riojas: I think that every school needs a SEL program. Similar to how every school has a standard aligned curriculum, schools need an SEL program to expand on skills and build commonality. 


MTW: How has SEL impacted your community? What changes have you noticed in your community? 

Caitlin Riojas: I was leading a Move This World activity where people moved to a different corner in the room based on different describing factors. We came to find out that nearly everyone in the class, myself included, both in person and virtual, was a middle child. We spent time talking about “middle child problems” and it really bonded us! 


MTW: There are many different Emogers (emotion managers) and strategies that students learn in Move This World’s curriculum. What is your favorite Emoger or exercise? 

Caitlin Riojas: I love the Power of Pause video “Umbrella Breathing.” I use it all the time when I am feeling stressed and have even taught it to my three-year-old at home. We do that when we need a moment of regulation.


MTW: What advice do you have for teachers that are new to implementing SEL? 

Caitlin Riojas: I would say it is important to pick one or two things to start at a time, go slow and don’t be afraid to change things up or fine tune along the way!


From forming classroom bonds to practicing techniques that support us at home and at school, Caitlin is a great example of how SEL impacts all aspects of our lives. A comprehensive SEL program doesn’t just benefit students, but support educators and families throughout the community, too.